Hello everybody, it’s been a little while since my last review and what an absolute masterpiece to return with! First and foremost, I would like to give Graham and the rest of the GamEir guys a massive thank you for allowing me the honour to review my GOTY for 2023. That’s right. The newest instalment of the Yakuza/Like A Dragon series, Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. And this will be spoiler free of course.
A Joryuney a year in the making
I’m coming hot off the heels of a year-long playthrough, or should I say plat-through of the Yakuza series (excluding spin-offs). I couldn’t wait to see where Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio moved the story forward with Like A Dragon Gaiden. You know, it’s funny. Going into it, I was expecting a shorter experience. Less to do overall, especially in comparison to the older games.
More of a DLC-style game of sorts. However, what I ended up getting was something more akin to Yakuza 6. While not as wholly fleshed out as previous entries, it still delivers a solid Yakuza/Like A Dragon experience. Now saying that, the platinum trophy process doesn’t feel as fleshed out or bloated as prior games. (Definitely not looking at you Yakuza 5). Everything else from the music, combat and the characters more than make up for its shortcomings.
For both long-time fans of the series and those who dropped off around the time of Like A Dragon’s release due to the shift in gameplay, this game is basically a love letter. At the same time, it’s a perfect send off for Kiryu. It also has the more action/brawler-oriented combat the Yakuza series is known for. This while also tying back into Like A Dragon’s story, and setting up Infinite Wealth perfectly.
To all the dragons I liked before
As much as I would love to talk about how much of a masterpiece the story is and how beautiful the ending was in any sort of detail, I refuse to spoil it on anyone. Well, except for GamEir’s resident Horror Queen. She’s been on the receiving end of many a late-night text message about theories I’ve had or in-game reveals. Typically something like “OH MY GOD THIS GUY JUST REVEALED THIS” or “I WAS RIGHT/WRONG”.
Like A Dragon Gaiden is a love letter to the games that came before. While heavily evident in the story throughout, the different themes and recurring characters, there’s no better way to truly get into Yakuza insanity than the mini games.
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who lost his sanity?
LAD Gaiden saw the return of Pocket Circuit. This hasn’t been seen in the mainline Yakuza games since Kiwami and it felt good to have it back. Now, I know it may seem counterintuitive to some but after going through Pocket Circuit… I can safely say it feels nearly the exact same as the Pocket Circuit from 0 and Kiwami, albeit a bit more RNG dependent.
That’s not to say they haven’t made new additions in Like A Dragon Gaiden though. With the inclusion of Time Trials and Rivals, the first time I sat down with pocket circuit I ended up losing a few hours just building, customising, testing, racing. And I’d happily do it again!
Another nice change of pace was the fact that full completion was not needed for the platinum trophy. Even with that being the case, I still recommend finishing all of the races and rivals. The end scene alone is worth it. If you’re having difficulty with any race, there are many guide builds that will help you! Soon enough, you’ll be zooming around the track like the mad drag-on that you are.
Dragon Bluffs and Dragon folds
As much as I’d like to go on about all the minigames individually equally, they aren’t all created equal. This is where the gambling mini games like to rear their ugly heads. From Mahjong to Black Jack there’s a small but solid gambling base for those who are good at it. It’s a great way to do some early game money grinding! That said, I’d recommend waiting until the coliseum in chapter 3 for that.
In regards to the other “smaller” minigames that aren’t the likes of Pocket Circuit, you’ve got some old Yakuza staples. Virtua Fighter and the UFO Crane make a return. However, we’ve also got some new ones! In chapter 3 , you can access the Sega Master System, which you can find the roms for all around Sotenbori. Sega arcade makes an appearance with Sonic The Fighters, Fighting Vipers 2, Motor Raid and Sega Racing Classic 2.
If arcades and arcade style games aren’t your thing though there is also Billiards, Darts and Golf for you to take a swing at! Honestly, they’ve never felt better to play than they have in Gaiden. Usually with a lot of the minigames, I used to do them one and done once the completion points were hit. But this time, I found myself going back to some of the minigames in this far more often than others. Golf and Billiards ended up being personal favourites though. However, Billiards skill challenges were rougher than any of the other minigames. Except Mahjong, but that’s a whole other game of tiles.
Tonight, we party like a dragon
Karaoke is the greatest mini game in the entirety of the Yakuza series and this is a hill I will die on. The actual gameplay itself is pretty much the exact same as we’ve seen from Kiwami 1, 2, Song Of Life and Like A Dragon. Though it’s clearly been tweaked for the better input timing. The thing with Karaoke in any of the Yakuza games though is as soon as I get the chance to be the dame da ne-ist of all I will make sure I am, every single time.
Now if you’re looking for a whole slew of new songs, I’m sorry to say that isn’t the case. If you’ve played through the other games including (Ishin!) you should recognise 5 of the 6 songs. Song 6 is the only new song. I’m not going to list the songs here for sake of spoilers, but just know there are 2 returning karaoke staples for longtime Yakuza fans.
Girls, Girls, Girls
Myself and the Cabaret Club minigame have had a rocky relationship since I played Yakuza 0. That’s not through fault of trying to enjoy it. But when the completion process typically entailed maxing out affection with close to 10 girls each time, it took its toll very fast. Now, I’m happy to say the completion process has been made far smoother/easier with Gaiden. Overall, it has become more enjoyable. At the same time, the live action sequences themselves can come across as awkward, repetitive and cheesy. Especially if you’re as awful as I am when talking to the hostesses.
As weird as the live action scenes were, when the girls acted well, you felt like it was an actual hostess. This gave the minigame a lot more enjoyment. But at the same time, when the girls were clearly feeling a bit awkward or the dialogue was cheesy I couldn’t help but laugh at it.
I will say though, for my overall enjoyment with the minigame it can get very grating. Especially if you’re not using a guide and must re-watch the same scenes over and over. I can still hear “Kanpai, cheers!” every time I close my eyes… If you know, you know.
Ahh the Coliseum, another staple from the series I have had a love-hate relationship with due to its completion processes. (Yakuza 5 I’m looking at you again). But honestly, this was easily the best Coliseum out of them all. Even if it has got an awful completion process like its predecessors.
Now sadly, the coliseum can still be a slog. But now with the addition of team rumble modes, and the fact that every character is controllable in some way adds a whole lot of experimentation with different teams and even solo fighters.
The biggest issue with the Coliseum though is the fact that it needs to be finished if you want to fight this game’s secret boss: Amon. Given how much harder that is to do in the other games, it’s not all that bad in the end. Even if you don’t want to fight Amon, I would highly recommend going through the entire Coliseum for the last tournament alone. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Gaiden platinum hunters.
Now I know this isn’t typically done in a review, but platinum trophies are my thing. With Like A Dragon Gaiden being an all-around easier platinum like Yakuza 6 it makes a good starting point for getting the platinum trophies or even the 1000g/100% scores on Xbox/Steam. If you’re like me too you’ll be doing everything as you go so here are some tips I wish I had known when I started.
- The golden ball collectible set cannot be finished until chapter 4 but only one is needed for the platinum.
- 49 of the locker keys (yes, the locker keys are back) are obtainable in chapter 2 but only 30 are needed for the trophy. If you want all 50 the last key is at the start of chapter 3
- Get the contacts from the black market asap – they mark keys on the map.
- Get the Eye of The Dragon gem asap as well, it nets you small amount extra Akame Points whenever you gain some
- Invest in Akame’s network early as it will also increase the amount of points you can gain.
- Farm the agent gadget uses to get new gadgets. They aren’t awful to grind out, but it saves a bit of time in the long run.
An Emotional End
All in all, Like A Dragon Gaiden is a fantastic love letter to not just the series prior to it but to the fans as well. The amount of references and recurring characters often had me grinning from ear to ear (many times I found myself going “hey, it’s“) and when it didn’t have me grinning it destroyed me.
Takaya Kuroda deserves an award for his acting in the ending scene alone honestly, and that is another hill I will die on even though don’t want to get into too much detail due to spoilers, nothing has truly made me weep uncontrollably like that since I watched Clannad: After Story 10 years ago (if you know, you know).
Overall, while not a perfect outing from RGG, it is still one of the best games in the Yakuza/Like A Dragon series and has left me even more hungry for Infinite Wealth on January 26th!